Australian dress register ID:421
Date range:1942 - 1943
Place of origin:Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia
This coat and hat were worn by Nydia Ede, campaigner, volunteer and local politician in Broken Hill. Nydia formed the Women’s Auxiliary Branch of the ALP in Broken Hill and served as its Secretary, Treasurer and President, in which capacity she campaigned for women’s rights, particularly the issue of equal pay for equal work. Her political efforts culminated in her election to the Broken Hill City Council in 1962. In the tightly union controlled mining industry this was an important achievement. In addition to her political activities, Nydia was also an active volunteer, particularly during the Depression and Second World War and served on several charitable boards after the war. Her life attests to the political involvement of women at both an official and unofficial level in the period between first and second wave feminism (1910s-1970s).
The design of the coat is broadly in keeping with fashions of the 1940s - broad shoulders, slighted flared skirt with knee-length hemline and no waistband, resulting in a straight, square-shaped silhouette. The coat demonstrates how working-class women, even during the war when clothing was in short supply, were able to dress fashionably. However, the coat was also practical, providing protection from both cold weather and light rain. The hat would have also protected the head. This combination reflects the character of the working woman who wore it, allowing Nydia to convey a sense of dignity and professionalism whilst undertaking her political and charitable work. During the war women had replaced male manual labourers and would have prioritised practicality over fashion in their choice of clothing, for instance wearing trousers instead of skirts.
The coat is also an example of clothing purchased during wartime, which was an infrequent occurrence due to government-imposed restrictions on the manufacture and sale of civilian clothing to ensure maximum supply of materials and labour for the war effort.
Author: Amy Butterfield,, 15 July 2013.
The collarless beige lambswool top coat closes edge to edge without buttons and has turn back front lapels. There are 2 pockets at each side hip. Fully lined. Inset at top of sleeves to suit set-in shoulder pads. Inset 6cm by 12cm. Back yoke stitching; subtle V2 rows 1.5cm apart. Yoke and back of coat in two separate pieces.
History and Provenance
Margot remembers that after rain her mother would shake the droplets off the coat. As a young girl Margot would watch as they sparkled in the sunshine.
Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?
The photograph submitted of Nydia and her daughter Margot shows the coat being worn in Sydney in 1944. Margot accompanied her mother on a visit to Long Bay Gaol to inspect conditions of inmates and talk to prison officials. Nydia was probably representing the Women's Auxiliary of the Australian Labor Party-Broken Hill Branch. Margot had to sit with the Wardens while they opened the mail and her mother inspected the prison.
This coat was purchased by Nydia in 1943, during the middle of the Second World War when the purchase of clothing was heavily regulated and shortages were common. In addition to the money spent, 27 coupons out of an annual issue of 112 coupons per person would have been required to purchase this coat. Consequently, such a purchase would not have been undertaken lightly. The coat appears to have been worn most frequently between 1943 and 1950, by which time Nydia may have had sufficient funds to purchase another coat. The coat was never disposed of though, and remains in the possession of Nydia’s daughter Margot.
How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?
This coat was purchased halfway through World War Two and at that time clothing purchased from a retailer was rare in the Ede household. A large number of precious clothing coupons were required to purchase a ready made garment. War time austerity, coupon requirement and the uncertain outcome of war meant that Nydia's family, like everyone else in the community, had to economise, recycle, alter and remodel garments. Thankfully the coat survived. The addition of a fox fur and alterations to hats worn changed the look of the coat. Nydia was a volunteer worker at the Broken Hill Hospital during the war when there was a shortage of nurses. Much of her time was also taken up attending meetings. It was necessary for her to dress her best and a warm coat was needed against the cold winters of Broken Hill. Margot, her daughter always knew her mother was going to a meeting or somewhere important when the 'lambwool coat' was worn. After the war the coat was relegated to the back of the wardrobe as new clothing became available. This coat tells the story of dignity in times of hardship and uncertainty of the war years. Margot continued to provide assistance to those in need in her community and elsewhere throughout this time.
Where did this information come from?
The information for this entry has been made available by Nydia Ede's daughter, Margot White of Broken Hill. The coat is still in her possession.
This garment has been exhibited
The coat was part of an exhibition 'As Times Go By' ipresented by the Broken Hill by the Broken Hill Family History Group in 2010 and exhibited again in 2012 through Quota Club International Broken Hill Branch Fashion Parade of Garments through the Ages.
Place of origin:
Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia
The purchase price is unknown. It was probably purchased at a Broken Hill Local Department Store at a reasonable price in guineas.
Nydia Ivy Edes JP, was a feminist and the first woman to be elected to the Broken Hill City Council (1962). She was born at Ladina, South Australia in 1901 and dedicated her life to social justice causes. She was President, Secretary, and Treasurer for the Australian Labor Party (Broken Hill) through 1920-1970; Member, Director of many Boards including: Broken Hill & District Hospital; Housing Advisory Commission; Women's Justice Association and Bush Children's Hostel. Awarded Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977.
Nydia Ivy Edes
Well worn particularly between 1943 & 1950; mostly day wear but worn during winter for evening meetings.
Worn at Broken Hill, Sydney & Adelaide
Retail Store Outlet.
Fibre / Weave
2. Understood to be lambswool-most likely cotton, lambswool imitation. Lining possibly silk.
3. Unable to identify-possibly cotton and silk lining.
4 Coat possibly cotton with silk lining and shoulder pads.
- Natural dye
- Synthetic dye
Label on nape of neck. White machine stitching affixes label to garment. The label is silk (same as lining). A tab is stitched under label to hang coat.
Adelyn / REG / PELT-O-LIVE / RAINPROOF FINISH / SHAKE GARMENT AND ALLOW TO DRY
Machine embroidered in white on black with the exception of 'PELT-O-LIVE' and 'RAINPROOF FINISH' in gold.
Lining appears to have hem shortened, possibly due to fabric dropping and showing below garment.
The addition of the fox fur collar and alterations to the design of the hat also demonstrate the existence of a ‘make do and mend’ philosophy. During wartime clothing restrictions, the alteration and repair of clothing was common. When they were unable to afford new items of clothing, families such as Nydia’s would add/remove trimmings, alter hemlines, etc. as a means of creating a fashionable new ‘look’. In the case of this coat, Nydia added a detachable fox-fur collar and the hat was later remodelled to its present design by Nydia’s sister/sister-in-law Emma.
- Hand sewn
- Machine sewn
Stiffening / Lining / Padding
Possible silk lining. Shoulder pads 3 layers cotton; light tan fibre Padding 2.5cm thick; black felt roughly stitched together and hadstitched to garment.
|Hem circumference||1390 mm|
|Front neck to hem||1020 mm|
|Back neck to hem||1030 mm|
|Neck to sleeve head||150 mm|
|Cross back||290 mm|
|Underarm to underarm||460 mm|
|Convert to inches|
Coat and lining seledge at centre front, back, sides of coat. No other selvedge showing.
Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions
Garment has possibly been dry cleaned but not in recent years. Therefore garment may no longer be showerproof.
The lining is stained.
Evidence of repairs
Hem lining raised due to fabric dropping below coat hemline: machine stitched. Small holes in the lining not repaired.